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July 9, 2010

Paying It Forward in a Very Big Way

HBO documentary 'A Small Act' shows the world-changing potential of child sponsorship


When Hilde Back (at right), a Holocaust survivor who fled to Sweden, where she became a preschool teacher, decided to sponsor a child in Africa, she had no idea how far her money would go. She knew it would probably help one child -- in this case, Chris Mburu of Kenya -- to get better nutrition and education. Turns out that it went a LOT further than that.

A Small Act, premiering at 8 p.m. Eastern on July 12 on HBO, tells the story from Mburu's perspective -- how Back's sponsorship helped him to not only get a good education in Kenya, but to go on to Harvard Law School and later become a human rights advocate for the United Nations, dedicating his life to fighting for "the least of these."

In an effort to "give back," Mburu (left) establishes the Hilde Back Education Fund to sponsor some of the brightest and most disadvantaged of Kenya's next generation. Secondary school can cost less than $10 a week in Kenya, but even that amount is out of reach for many families. In A Small Act, three gifted students compete for a scholarship that may be the only chance they have of continuing their schooling and changing their lives.

Meanwhile, Back is completely unaware of what has happened to the young boy she once sponsored. So Mburu tracks down the now 80-year-old in Sweden, and brings her to Kenya to see all the good that she has done. It's a wonderful little film that nicely illustrates what our own small acts can accomplish.

Director Jennifer Arnold, who attended the University of Nairobi, says she wanted to tell a story that would "inspire audiences to do their own 'small acts.' There are huge stakes for these kids, who are literally fighting for their lives. . . . These kids may one day impact people across the world as Chris Mburu has, and Hilde Back before him." As Back says, "If you do something good, it can spread in circles, like rings on the water."

Though there's little to no spiritual perspective (the organization through which Back sponsored Mburu wasn't faith-based), it's quite inspiring. And when one thinks of the difference that can be made through such Christian NGOs as World Vision, Compassion, and Food for the Hungry, it's easy to see why child sponsorship can literally change the world.

Learn more about the film here, and see the trailer below:

A SMALL ACT Trailer 2010 from Jennifer Arnold on Vimeo.